Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Chat with Chris Greatwich

Chris is the third from left standing.

photo by Ed Formoso taken at Panaad, Bacolod


Rick: How were you able to play for the Philippine football team? Did someone contact you about playing? Were you always aware of your heritage?

Chris: My mother was born in Davao, which is how my brothers and I qualify to play for the Philippines. I was acutely aware of my heritage from a young age and always said I wanted to play for the national team although I never knew how it would ever materialise. In 2002 my grandmother passed away so she went home for the funeral but she previously visited the PFF headquarters in Pasig and Vince Ariola and Aris Caslib made contact with me. I was asked to attend a training camp prior to the 2004 Tiger Cup in Malaysia, impressed the coaching staff and have been involved with the set-up ever since.

Rick: Were you apprehensive at all about playing for the Philippines more so since the football scene here isn't within the vicinity of remote in Europe or England?

Chris: I was never apprehensive about playing for the Philippines - I was more excited at the prospect of playing for the national team. I did wonder how I would be received by the players but they were fantastic and really made me feel at home. The Philippines in fact have a fine footballing tradition, with players like Paulino Alcantrara and were a real powerhouse footballing nation once upon a time. In more recent years we have fallen behind our South East Asian counterparts because they have invested a lot of time and money into the development of the sport. We have however made great strides since Aris Caslib has taken over the squad and I think if we can help to boost the profile of the sport across the nation and get some financial backing then we can continue to move towards bridging the gap and restoring us to our former glory.

Rick: What tournaments did you play in and did you score any goals? What teams/players do you root for?

Chris: For the Philippines I played in the Tiger Cup in 2004 in Malaysia, and the AFC Championships in Thailand last year, as well as the qualifiers in Bacolod in 2006 which was an amazing experience. I unfortunately missed out on the 2005 SEA Games because I was playing in the National Tournament in the US at the time.

For the Philippines I have scored against Laos and Timor Leste in those qualifiers which was tremendous. Here in the UK I am a Tottenham Hotspur fan but I am a great admirer of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo who I think are the two best players in the world right now.

Rick: Describe the experience of suiting up for the Philippine national team? Was it fun? What was your most memorable moment?

Chris: It's hard to put into words what you feel when you put on the shirt. I was extremely proud, especially for my mother and her family to be representing the Philippines, but I was also aware that you have a lot of responsibility. You are carrying the expectations of a nation which you should not take lightly. I have enjoyed immensely my time so far with the national team and it has always been great fun. Coach Aris always gives us license to express ourselves which enables me as a player to feel free and removed of all shackles. I have had a few memorable moments since I began with the national team and a few stick out in my mind.

The first was when Emilio 'Chippy' Caligdong scored two last minute goals to beat Timor Leste in the 2004 Tiger Cup, which was an unbelievable finale to the game. We then faced them two years later and beat them 7-0 on home soil which was our best performance I have been part of. Qualifying for the AFC Championships in Bacolod was brilliant also, in front of our adoring fans, who really got behind the team. Drawing with Myanmar in the AFC Championships was also a landmark performance. From a personal standpoint, Captaining the side was a brilliant moment for me as you can never be given a greater honour than captaining your country.

Rick: Do you plan on pursuing a career in football whether in the US or England? Will you be playing again for the Philippines?

Chris: I am playing semi-professional football in England at the moment for Bognor Regis Town and I have a very good job that I enjoy. While I would still love to get back into full-time football, it is a volatile industry and there are a lot of players who could play professional football but choose to stay part-time as it is more secure and sometimes more lucrative. I will be back playing for the national team in May for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in Bacolod.

Rick: Any ideas on how to improve the local football scene?

Chris: To improve the game long-term in the Philippines you need to invest in the development of the sport from a grassroots level all the way through the national team. It needs to be played in schools and appropriate training facilities provided. Even at the national team level our training facilities are poor which makes me wonder where all of our allocated money from FIFA has been distributed over the past few years?

Another sore point is certain factions of our governing body have deemed it pointless to attend World Cup Qualifiers. This defeatist mentality will continue to stunt the development of the national team as we will only improve if we play against top sides in international competition.

Overall we have improved greatly even in the 3 or 4 years that I have been involved with the national team. We have a great young squad with a great mixture of international based players and talented homegrown players, as well as a superb Coach. The infrastructure however is poor and in order to continue this steady incline we need to make changes. The team has a tremendous amount of potential which, can be realised if we get the right backing and we are ambitious enough to challenge the big boys. If Manny Pacquiao can do it, so can we.

Autographed Mizuno football by the Azkals team. That's the sig of goal keeper Louie Casas.


  1. yes! this is great. i feel like we are finally going somewhere... and greatwich idol haha kaya nyo yan!

  2. neil etheridge great addition to the team, amazing team, future suzuki cup champions!

  3. congrats sa team at sayo! uv made goals sa Suzuki cup! thnx for sticking it out sa Phil team kahit madaming kulang na suporta sa inyo!